Deep down, we’ve all got grandiose visions about how different our lives could be. Maybe you see yourself several steps up the corporate ladder – enjoying the spoils a higher salary and greater prestige will bring – or maybe you envision a future where you’ve finally lost your spare tire and love handles after years of trying to lose weight.
But here’s the issue… Tackling major life changes like these often seems so overwhelmingly stressful that we fail to make any progress at all! As an example, losing 50 pounds might seem like such a daunting process that it’s just easier to go back to eating donuts and never get started in the first place.
As the saying goes, though, if you want to eat an elephant, you’ve got to start with one bite at a time!
In the case of making major life changes, these bites are the individual habits you can change in order to bring about a cumulatively large effect without being overwhelmed by the enormity of your goal. In the example above, losing 50 pounds might sound too scary to even think about moving forward, but adding 10 minutes of exercise or cutting out a soda each day comes across as much more reasonable to hesitant goal-setters.
Here’s how to use the process of habit-forming to make major changes within your own life:
Step #1 – Set your major goals
As you might expect, the first part of setting habits in order to promote life changes is to determine what types of life changes you’d like to make in the first place!
Though your own goals will be unique, possible major changes to work towards include:
- Reaching a healthy goal weight
- Getting a promotion or industry award
- Saving enough money for a down payment on a house
- Running a marathon
- Meeting the love of your life
Don’t limit yourself here or think that the goals that are important to you are either too silly to waste time on or too large to ever fully accomplish. With the process of proper habit-forming, you truly can achieve anything you put your mind to!
Step #2 – Break major goals down into habits
Once you’ve got a major goal or two in mind, brainstorm a list of possible habits that could contribute towards your overall success in this arena. Taking our weight loss example from before, any of the following habits could help get you one step closer to your future life-changing success:
- Cutting out soda
- Dropping fast food
- Limiting desserts to one time each week
- Substituting fruit for dessert three times each week
- Not eating after 7:00pm
- Eliminating processed starches from meals
- Walking for 30 minutes a day
- Adding 10 minutes of weight training a week
Obviously, some of these habits will have a bigger impact on your overall success in reaching your goal than others. Adding a few sets of push-ups into your weekly routine, for example, is likely to have a much smaller impact on your overall weight than cutting out sugar will. However, because the process of setting and following good habits isn’t necessarily a linear path, it’s a good idea to have both easy and more challenging habits at your disposal.
Step #3 – Tackle a single habit at a time
After you’ve compiled as many different habits as you can think of that will help bring you closer to your goal, choose one and start working on it exclusively – keeping everything else in your life the same.
Now, here’s where the variability in your habits’ relative difficulty becomes important. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the thought of making any life changes, start with an easy habit and celebrate every day you complete it successfully. On the other hand, if you’re feeling excited about starting the life-changing process, try starting with a more difficult habit in order to bring about results more quickly.
Whichever option you choose, focus on this single goal for at least three weeks before adding another habit into the mix (and even then, add new habits only if you feel confident in your ability to maintain your original goal). Yes, this makes the process of making major changes to your life much slower, but it also makes it substantially more likely that you’ll successfully reach your final destination.
Step #4 – Use habit tracking tools to stay on track
As you go through this process of tackling a single habit at a time, you might find it helpful to use a habit tracking tool that allows you to record and monitor your progress. A few of my favorite tools for this purpose include:
- Joe’s Goals
- Lift [iOS app]
- Way of Life [iOS app]
- GoalTracker [Android app]
- Routinely [Android app]
You might also find it helpful to establish rewards for yourself for completing a given habit for a set number of days. Knowing that there’s a special treat waiting for you at the end of a three-week long habit-forming road makes the entire process much easier to stick with!
Do you have any suggestions on how to set or stick with the types of habits that will help you to achieve major life goals? If so, share your recommendations in the comments section below!